Acquisition of Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance can be due to either spontaneous mutation, which alters existing genes, or acquisition of new genes (figure 21.15). Acquisition of resistance through spontaneous mutation is called vertical evolution, because it affects only the progeny of the altered cell. In contrast, acquisition of resistance through gene transfer is called horizontal evolution; even entirely unrelated organisms can gain new traits this way.

(a) Vertical Evolution

^Spontaneous mutation in genome

(a) Vertical Evolution

^Spontaneous mutation in genome

(b) Horizontal Evolution

R plasmid

(b) Horizontal Evolution

R plasmid

Figure 21.15 The Acquisition of Antimicrobial Resistance

(a) Spontaneous mutation, leading to vertical evolution. Only the progeny of the mutant cell are resistant (R). (b) Gene transfer, leading to horizontal evolution. Even unrelated bacteria can acquire resistance.

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